The mechanics of operation of a free market is better understood by observing as to how an online black market works. In these times of cybercrime, the dark web can be considered as the best source for understanding the market dynamics. The dark web, which has evolved into a cybercrime economy over the years and increasingly specialized in the division of labor, is the place where fraudsters and identity thieves peddle their wares.
Today, the darknet markets offer a staggering menu of options as they quickly commoditize many widely available products and services, including stolen credit card details, social security numbers, full identity information, malware and other tools for just a few bucks. For launching a Distributed Denial of Service DDoS) attack or a stressor campaign against a target, a Botnet booter can be hired for a rental payment of less than $100 a day. Further, malware authors make available both malware-as-a-service and software for sale in the SaaS model for different ranges of prices.
Certain services and items such as 0-day vulnerability information fetch attackers more money as they are used for more targeted campaigns. As such, the illicit marketplaces on the dark web function as true businesses, offering several components bundled into special discount packages to customers who want to make a fast buck. In fact, the dark web economy is very sophisticated and complex.
Alphabay Market, one such online darknet market that operates on the Tor network, came into existence after Silk Road 2.0 was shut down by the federal authorities. Following its pre-launch in November 2014, AlpahBay was officially launched on 22nd December 2014. As many as 14,000 new users joined the AlphaBay site in just about the first 90 days of its operation. Gwern.net, the website that provides information on darknet markets, even placed AlphaBay in the top tier based on the 6-month survival probability. Since then, AlphaBay has experienced steady growth.
In order to access AlphaBay, users are required to download Tor and use a special address. It takes only seconds to open an account on the website. The website is organized on the basis of categories of products and services offered, as in the case of other e-commerce websites, except that users cannot find listings for drugs, weapons or porn on Amazon or eBay.
The hottest selling item on AlphaBay is, without any doubt, drugs. There are more than 36,000 listings for cocaine, marijuana, MMDA and everything else in between them. Some vendors sell watches on the website. They may or may not be counterfeit or stolen. Some other vendors sell guns, while yet others sell guides costing less than one dollar that could help users make C4 explosives. Users can also purchase stolen credit card numbers on the website for less than $10. According to some review websites, there are more than 62,000 products listed on AlphaBay website.
AlphaBay is a darknet market that offers security measures such as Multisig transactions (2/3), 2FA (two-factor authentication), Withdrawal PIN, Vendor bond and Forced vendor PGP. For the multi sig transaction to work, both the seller and buyer are required to set their public multi sig key in their profile.
Additionally, AlphaBay uses the “Scam Watch” feature. It involves a team of the most trusted AlphaBay community members having a strong background in hacking, malware, fraud, etc., focusing on detecting as well as preventing different types of scams. They are paid to do this job and have been given the authority to freeze vendor accounts if they are suspected of scamming or if their account gets hacked. So far, the team has banned more than 200 vendors and successfully deflected a number of exit scams.
Finally, customers are required to leave reviews about the experience they had on the website as well as with the vendor as users do on Amazon and eBay sites. Positive feedback helps sellers to enjoy better trust levels on AlphaBay. This is an important metric that customers make use of to gauge whether a vendor or seller will scam them or not.